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Masters of Horror: The Damned Thing

Anchor Bay
Movie B
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

Some good and bad news for fans of this Showtime anthology series: After two seasons of top-notch one-hour movies featuring some of the genre's best directors and writers, Showtime was apparently unwilling to green light a third. The semi-good news is that NBC is partnering with the producers of the series to do Fear Itself, 13 one-hour episodes of horror that will run next summer. What makes this not-entirely good news is that Masters was balls-out nasty, featuring "unrated"-type gore and horror that certainly can't be replicated on network television.

As I'm typing this, I'm watching The Damned Thing, a great installment of Masters from Tobe Hooper, the man who did Texas Chain Saw Massacre. A policeman just pulled a car-accident victim, still alive, out of her car, only to discover she's chopped in half. A few minutes before, some fellow took himself out with a hammer, repeatedly bashing himself in the head.

I don't think this kind of stuff will be showing on the network that gave you Friends.

As for Hooper, a director whose career has been quite erratic since doing Poltergeist in the early '80s, Masters represented a chance for him to return to his unforgiving, horrifying roots. This episode, where a young boy witnesses his father going nuts as a child, only to grow up and be haunted by some strange death force, is put together nicely. Fans of "the gore" will rejoice in the mayhem.

To be honest, I was surprised when Masters got the green light for its second season. It seemed too good to be true. There hasn't been an official announcement, but it looks like the series, technically, rests in peace. While I'm curious to see what NBC does with the format, I'm just a little worried that it will lack bite.

Special Features: Humorous commentary from writer Christian Matheson and Texas Terror: The Making of The Damned Thing will please fans.

The War

Paramount Home Video
Movie A
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

Director Ken Burns delivers yet another excellent historical documentary, a mammoth examination of World War II that is surprisingly focused, considering its length and scope. Using historical footage and stills, mixed with current interviews, this could be Burns' crowning achievement. The entire war is covered in this 15-hour film, which took Burns six years to make. Burns focuses on citizens from four American towns and how the war took its toll on the cities. It features original music by Wynton Marsalis, and narration by the likes of Keith David, Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson.

Special Features: Burns offers some commentaries and an excellent documentary on the making of the documentary.

Knocked Up (Extended and Unrated): 2-Disc Collector's Edition

Universal Home Video
Movie A
Special Features A+
DVD Geek Factor 10 (out of 10)

One of the year's funniest movies comes to DVD rather quickly. While producers surely had to act fast to put this package together, they've done a great job and provided many options (HD-DVD, the theatrical version and an unrated cut). The tale of an unlikely pair (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) who find themselves expecting a child is one of the year's best, and it gets a DVD worthy of it.

Director and producer Judd Apatow had himself a terrific summer, and the future looks good. You've heard plenty about this film already, so let's talk about the features, shall we?

Special Features: The stand-alone disc that features the theatrical release is good enough, but you should shell out a few more bucks for the double-disc, unrated version. As for the extended version, we have another contender for DVD of the Year. There are tons of deleted and extended scenes, most of them as good or better than what made the film. Extended versions of the abortion debate between the roomies and Jonah Hill's panic attack at the hospital are epic viewing. In fact, Hill (who also starred in this summer's Superbad) could've been more of a star in this film, because the stuff that was left on the floor is better than all of the other non-Apatow produced comedies that came out this year. Hill is unreal. Video diaries with Apatow are quite enjoyable, as are profiles of David Krumholtz and Dr. Kuni (played Ken Jeong). As it turns out, Krumholtz gave up a chance to be in the film, because Woody Allen had cast him in a movie, only to have that film fall apart and leave him jobless. Jeong, a real-life doctor who played the frustrated substitute medic, also gets a little diary. There's an extended version of his rant, which, like Hill's extended scenes, is amazing. There's a great commentary with Apatow and cast (including Bill Hader doing his Al Pacino impersonation). The best feature would be Finding Ben Stone, a fictional look at other men considered for the male lead. Michael Cera, Bill Hader and Krumholtz get a chance to have some fun.

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